DeSantis Wins Again: Florida Appeals Court Rules Mask Mandate Unconstitutional

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Then-candidate Donald Trump was fond of joking during the 2016 presidential election campaign that the Republican Party was going to do so much “winning” after he became president that his supporters would beg him to “stop winning so much.” Trump did his fair share of winning, but the streak Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is on ain’t too bad, either.

Thanks to the wisdom and foresight of DeSantis, Floridians have been largely free from the draconian dictatorial COVID edicts of the likes of Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, New York’s Andrew Cuomo, and Oregon’s Kate Brown. But several counties, as reported by The Blaze, such as Alachua, aggressively enforced “unconstitutional regulations” until recently.

And now this:

In a landmark ruling on Friday, per The Blaze, Florida’s First District Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court had erred in tossing out the lawsuit against Alachua County’s mask mandate because it should be held as presumptively unconstitutional:

“Based on what the supreme court has told us about the scope of article I, section 23, Green (and anyone else in Alachua County) reasonably could expect autonomy over his body, including his face, which means that he was correct to claim an entitlement to be let alone and free from intrusion by Alachua County’s commission chairman,” Judge Adam Scott Tanenbaum, an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), wrote. “The mask mandate, then, implicated the right of privacy. According to Gainesville Woman Care, the mask mandate was presumptively unconstitutional as a result.”

Blaze Senior Editor Daniel Horowitz explained the significance of the appeals court ruling.

“This language is very significant because it’s the first time a judge is using the principle of bodily autonomy to affirm a constitutional right not to have one’s breathing restricted. […]

“There are several very striking elements about this ruling, which will reverberate throughout the country even as the mask mandates officially expire. Defendants had argued that the mandate is now moot given the orders of the governor requiring all counties to end their mandates.

“However, the judge noted in a footnote, ‘Because of the nature of the various emergency orders that we have seen and the county’s continued commitment to public mask wearing, we are not convinced that this is the last that we will see of this issue.’

“In other words, you can’t have a gross violation of the most fundamental rights hanging over our heads at any time and somehow suggest that we have no recourse to eliminate it.

“‘We conclude, then, that this case fits within the exception to the mootness doctrine, which is for controversies that are capable of repetition, yet evading review,’ presciently observed Judge Tanenbaum.”

Proving yet again that the best way to beat the left is to think like the left. As The Blaze noted, the appeals judge also recognized the potential for abuse of “fiats” and “diktats” in emergency powers — in general.

It would behoove the trial court also to consider that while article I, section 23 “was not intended to provide an absolute guarantee against all governmental intrusion into the private life of an individual … even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.”

And there is this warning from William Pitt the Younger, roughly paraphrasing a similar sentiment in John Milton’s Paradise Lost: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.”

According to The Blaze, the judge drew on precedent from the Florida Supreme Court that bodily autonomy is a fundamental right. Therefore, per the ruling — and this is “yuuge”:

The starting point of any mask mandate must begin with the government proving that masks absolutely work and are necessary; a plaintiff “does not bear a threshold evidentiary burden to establish that a law intrudes on his privacy right.”

Finally. So Now What? Beyond Florida?

The next step would be in a win in federal court, wrote Horowitz, noting that the only federal lawsuit against the CDC mask mandate on public transportation is in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, where a plaintiff from Washington, D.C., is suing the TSA, the CDC, and other federal agencies in federal court because he was prevented from traveling without a mask and is now stuck in Florida.

The “well researched and well written” complaint accuses the government of violating the plaintiff’s fundamental rights, usurping legislative power, and providing no data that any of the policies are effective.

And from there?

It depends on how far the government wants to push it, but it’s possible, suggested Horowitz, that “Gov. Ron DeSantis’s lawsuit (which also brought in the Middle District of Florida) against the CDC’s mandates on cruise liners could result in the collapse of the entire federal mandate, including on airplanes.”

Wouldn’t that be a gold star on the resume of a 2024 presidential candidate?

Incidentally, Horowitz made an outstanding point at the end; the left being the left, and all:

“At this pace, perhaps it’s a good thing for some of the mandates to remain in place just long enough to get standing to sue against them. For if we fail to destroy this ill-gotten government power while it’s unpopular, it will surely rear its ugly head next flu season.”

AMEN.

Additional RedState coverage of Ron DeSantis:

Holy Moley: Ron DeSantis Signs Bill Requiring a Daily Reflective ‘Moment of Silence’ in Public Schools

Ron DeSantis Zeroes in on Exactly Why Biden’s G7 Performance Was Disastrous in Possible 2024 Preview

He Did It: Ron DeSantis Opens Florida’s Board of Education Meeting, and Critical Race Theory Gets Banned

DeSantis Continues to Show Leadership in Employment; Newsom Continues to Play Paternalist

Ron DeSantis Signs Bill That Will Infuriate the Chinese Communist Party and its American Allies